Monday, May 16, 2016

Avoiding toxic creativity

Over the last 1-2 months I found a new balance in my life: my usual long list of tasks, work and responsibilities balanced out each day with the activity of something fun, new, mind stopping and pay attention, actively exploratory (new shows on Netflix don’t count), trying out something new that is meaningful to me and that I am truly interested in at that time. If it is making a linoleum stamp, printing tea towels, making aged wood board photo backgrounds, or learning a new tool such as ‘how does graphic design work?’. All these activities seem to stop time for me, at least for 1-2h, and I pay attention, and get lost in the flow, and then I am really happy afterwards and feel I really lived. The echo of the experience carries along for a few days, and make me smile thinking about it later on, looking back.

When for some reason life gets too hectic again and time scarce, when I am required to show up at many events but there is not much more required of me than showing up, when I feel busy but don’t get the sense of “I’ve been challenged and I did something.” this energy gets pent up and finds no release.  It sneakily pours out of me, just in different ways such as sending me me to the mall, and scouring for new clothes. Or it sends me to Target, which always lead to finding something. This results in a buzz for the moment, but then, poof, it is gone again and I am back to being bored. If I do this too often I get cranky and a bit desperate about life.

This week I made the connection that in the end, it is really the creativity that looks for an outlet. If I don’t actively do something where I can apply myself, learn something, or get my teeth into an interesting new ‘problem’,  it will send me to the mall or Target. If I’d live in NYC I would probably scour for new stores, restaurants and exhibits, looking for new stimulation, and new (passive) experiences.  If I’d be Mindy Lahiri I might look for a new date.  If I’d be a runner I might look for a new half marathon to focus on. Or we click endlessly through social media. In the end, it can be misdirected creativity. There is new-ness, stimulation but it is like a glass of champagne, and the buzz does not last. It can result in endless ‘activity’ and feel like running in a hamster wheel (but often we are too busy to notice).

I think real creativity involves taking risks, focus on something that is not necessarily safe (buying clothes is safe!), but has the potential to break us open like a melon, and the insides of us exposed, our fears, vulnerability, facing the things we really want but are sometimes afraid of going for because we are not sure what the outcome will be. Will we fail? Will be succeed? Will we even like what we produce, or where we end up? But deep inside, this ‘thing’ really matters to us. And the experience and outcome will be transformational, for ourselves, and others.


Yesterday, I saw this wonderful documentary “Artifact’” by Jared Leto. I saw him on the “30 Days of Genius” series on Creative live and was drawn in by his raw creativity. He does creativity on a big scale: music, acting, directing, editing and more. He mentioned that  a few years ago they were sued by their own record company, EMI, for breach of contract for 30 Mio Dollars, after they wanted to get out of their 9 year contract after 7 years. Despite several Million Dollar selling albums they were in debt for 1.7Million to EMI and had not seen a dime. They made a documentary about this time,  when they worked on their new album (“This is war.”) and fought the lawsuit at the same time. Despite the head-scratching and aggravating information of how the music industry works, I found the back story of how Jared Leto and his brother being exposed to music and creativity early on much more fascinating.


And there we go, redirecting to creativity. Maybe, this will put the retail industry even more into a funk (but I think they could also use some return to creativity).

Have a good week!

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